This past Monday, February 4th Ioana celebrated her 19th birthday. We weren’t sure about how to celebrate her birthday and decided to go with a collaboration of how she might celebrate in Romania and how our family celebrates. They are fairly similar and we told Ioana that she could invite two friends for a dinner party the night of her birthday. In our family, the celebrant chooses what meal they desire on their special day and we enjoy just having a meal together in the company of one another.
Ioana invited two of her closest American friends, Sherry and Becky, along with their respective spouses, Tom and John. Both Sherry and John had first met Ioana in 2010 when they went on a mission trip to Romania. So a connection had been formed years ago and Ioana loves both of these families dearly.
The week before Ioana’s birthday I thought about how we could make the day special for her. I’ve had a list of people that I send updates to about Ioana. This is a list I created three years ago when we first began the process of bringing her to America. I’ve sent them the blog updates and requests for prayers on a regular basis. Six days before her birthday I sent out a quick email asking if people would send her a birthday card. A card shower would be something new and exciting for her and represent how many people love her and care about her. The group came through in tremendous fashion and along with others that knew about Ioana’s birthday she currently has gotten 48 birthday cards!
A couple trickled in on Wednesday and Thursday and then on Friday I checked the mail and there were eleven cards in the mail. I brought them in and put them in the cupboard without telling her about them. That night we had dinner and after we finished I told her to close her eyes. With her back to our kitchen island I spread the cards out behind her. When she opened her eyes she was initially confused as the space in front of her was empty. “Turn around!” I told her.
As she spun around she saw the cards and her eyes opened wide! She gathered them up in her arms and literally hugged all of the cards. Then she took them and kissed them! She was beaming. One by one she read through them in English and them Pam translated what she didn’t understand. She would set them aside one by one with their respective envelope like a treasured gift. After she was all done reading through the cards she held them at arm’s length and looked at them. Then she dropped her head and began sobbing. She put her head on my shoulder and I told her how special she was to so many people. And that this represented the love people have for her, but in the scope of God’s love for her it was just a mustard seed and she will always have these as a reminder of that love.
The next day the whole event repeated itself when another dozen or so cards showed up. Again she opened them and she said, “This is the best gift I could have gotten.” The day after her birthday we sat together on the floor of her bedroom as she sorted through all of them again and picked out the funny ones, the special ones, the one’s that marked special relationships.
Her birthday dinner was a fabulous time. She had mesquite salmon, rice with cubed carrots and cauliflower. Sherry and Tom brought bread and Becky and John came with appetizers. She had a cake, (her second birthday cake as our small group had a cake for her the Sunday night before her birthday) and after dinner everybody joined in a game of Uno Attack, one of her favorite games. She demolished the competition, winning four games of Uno from the rest of the group. She shows no mercy when it comes to games! But she always hugs the losers to let them know that she loves them after dealing them a severe beating.
Her birthday was a highlight and I’m sure one that she will never forget. Thank you to all of you who helped to make it special! Have a great weekend!